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MGH researchers identify angiogenesis inhibitor in gallbladder cancer

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have discovered that a cellular growth factor called TGF-beta-1 has a previously unsuspected role in regulating the growth of blood vessels associated with metastatic gallbladder cancer. They also report finding that, in animal studies of the development of blood vessels (angiogenesis) associated with cancer, model systems in which tumor cells are grown in an unnatural location - for example, gallbladder cancer cells grown under the skin - may produce misleading results.

The study's results, appearing in the October issue of Nature Medicine, may someday lead to strategies to prevent the growth of metastases from gallbladder cancer, a serious problem in treatment of the disease. They also add further complexity to current knowledge about factors that regulate angiogenesis and their role in the growth and spread of cancer.

"We discovered that suppression of the growth of a secondary tumor [metastases] by antiangiogenic factors released by the primary tumor depended on the primary tumor's growing in the right environment," says Rakesh Jain, PhD, director of the Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology at the MGH and the study's senior author. "That may have implications for the identification of anti-angiogenesis agents that may be useful for cancer treatment."

The research team focused on gallbladder cancer, which is diagnosed in more than 6,000 Americans each year, because of a frustrating property of the disease. As long as the primary tumor remains in the gallbladder, metastases - pockets of cancer that develop in other parts of the body - are few and very small. But soon after the primary tumor is surgically removed, metastases appear and grow quickly. As a result, only about 5 percent of patients having the surgery, which currently is the only treatment for the disease, survive for five years or more.

This apparent suppression of the growth of metastases by the presence of a primary
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Contact: Susan McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
28-Sep-1999


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